1 year
Problems Bigger Than Corruption
By Odera Okakpu
I was once stranded somewhere in Borno, not far from Chibok. Naturally it takes a lot for me to panic. But when a rickety old Volkswagen Gulf 2 breaks down, in the middle of a horrible muddy road, in a town that was formally named after Satan, you are allowed to be a little worried. And when you realize 30 mins later that it cannot be fixed and you must trek an uncertain distance down the road to flag down help; you are allowed to be worried. And when you get to the deserted road, eventually, 30 minutes later, and have the passing driver of another small rickety car tell you that your best option is to go back to that village you came from because there is a curfew, this is Boko Haram territory, the next checkpoint is 8km and it‘s just not safe, you are definitely allowed to be worried and start panicking. But still I did not.

As a stubborn, youthful, adventurist I convinced the other 4 wanderers that forward ever backward never is the best option we have and hopefully we‘d find a mechanic to fix the car and take us to safety. We walked and walked and walked into the darkness. 3 vehicles passed and moped at us; no one can trust anyone in this area so it‘s best to keep on moving and we really didn‘t blame them. More than an hour of walking and everywhere was pitch black until tiny lights started blinking in a Morse code like fashion. Friend or foe passed through my mind and for a minute I was worried. Vigilante men wielding charms and local ammunition stepped out of the shadows to ask us questions. “Help us” was all we could answer and help they did.

The walking continued in the dark. More confirmation and investigation that we were not the foe was done and they found us a single hut to sleep. The Good Samaritans gave us bread and malt to hold our stomachs and assured us safety and a solution by morning.

Based on my story and this title at this point you must have concluded that our problem bigger than corruption must be insecurity. But even in so called developed countries like the ones we see in Hollywood, they too are afraid of the things that lurk in the dark.

One problem bigger than corruption (because I‘m of the opinion Nigeria and Nigerians suffer from warped paradigms but this cannot be managed or even quantified) is the lack of vision and foresight. If our politicians generally had collective vision for our country, there should be set structures in place to call an emergency agency. If that had not worked there would have at least been light for us to watch TV and console ourselves till morning. If proper structures were in place vigilante would not wonder what a team from Lagos was looking for in their backward northeastern village because they would be used to the visitors.

As I lay in the dark, mosquito invested, hut, I began to think back on how stuck in the past these people were and they had no idea. Because governments that were meant to provide them the basic amenities to survive in the 21st century, to survive in a fast evolving and incredibly dangerous world, had so neglected them.

Corruption, which is not limited to embezzling of funds, is bred from a group of people that have never known HOW things are supposed to go, as they say charity begins at home. If individuals know that they do not need to do too much to be comfortable they would not have to cut corners or embezzle funds. Corruption is not particular to Nigeria or African countries alone. Corruption is seen largely even in the western world. Even some of the most advanced governments have not completely eradicated corruption. In fact in more advanced countries it is much easier for corruption to thrive because their citizens generally have all they need to function and survive amicably.

Leaders and citizens alike fail to plan for the future past making sure money is at hand. But life and liveliness is way more than that. Lack of foresight is what has caused most of Nigeria to remain looking stuck in the 70’s. Our leaders carted away money meant to bring us up to par with evolving times and forgot that few would become educated. And those that are educated will come back and educate their brothers, make comparisons and ask questions.

Lack of foresight on our parts as citizens has caused us to not ask our public servants what tangible things our communities would get from electing them. Lack of foresight is the reason why, when leaders and all those in charge allowed our schools standards to dwindle and unemployment to rise, they never considered how the youth will survive. They never forecast armed robbery, kidnapping, oil bunkering, piracy or even Boko Haram. They never forecast how deeply they could hurt and scar us, by not taking care of us.

The lack of vision and forecast is why our economy is slowly crumbling, because no one thought of a hypothetical situation in which there is no more oil.

Vision and foresight should be what drives us as millennials when the time comes for us to take over leadership. We need to honestly tell ourselves we are living in a failed society and make preparations so our grandchildren do not live in such conditions.